My name’s Minna Vaisanen, Head of Customer Success at Growth Engineering.
In this article, I’m going to go into detail looking at:
- My customer success journey so far
- The systems and software developed at Growth Engineering, and their benefits
- The data points to track and the benefits of leveraging them in your CS operations
- The building blocks of customer success systems and data
- How to maximize data to drive further success for customers
Shall we get started?
My customer success journey so far
Growth Engineering’s a learning management platform that runs a multitude of applications. Naturally, my biggest responsibility here is to make sure our customers reach their outcomes.
Prior to this role, I was VP of Customer Success at a hospitality tech firm. That's actually my background – I am a long-lived hospitality expert! I started my career as a Director of Revenue in a hotel environment, which is to say I was a data geek to a certain extent. I looked after forecasting and I did a lot of data manipulation to understand the best pricing on any given day.
From there, I moved into a role in our Asia Pacific (APAC) headquarters where I taught system adoption. System adoption comes with a lot of change management, so if you want to tick off the skill sets for customer success, I've done data, I've done forecasting, I've done change management, and system adoption. That's where my passion for systems and training comes from.
I’ve found my perfect match now at Growth Engineering because I'm teaching a learning management system to our customers.
The systems and software developed at Growth Engineering and their benefits
I should start by saying that I didn't develop software specifically for Growth Engineering; I went to a vendor solution.
I believe that systems, and tech in general, should enable you to do your job better. For customer success professionals, having a 360˚ view of customers through tech is vital. You always want to be able to see where your customers are on their journey and what they’re doing there.
Before implementing any new software, I made sure that we had thought about the stages our customers go through. We mapped out the customer journey and lifecycle phases, and we allocated activities and playbooks against each of these phases. That's one part of the prep.
Another aspect of the preparation for implementing a new system is looking at your data structures:
- What different types of data are you getting?
- Are you getting product data?
- Where is your customer data?
All that good stuff.
Before you invest in any new software, make sure you're selecting a tool that helps you to bring your whole tech stack together. For example, if you're using support software, that should integrate with your sales tool.
Most SaaS companies use the project management platform, Jira; when you can incorporate that into your CS tool, you get a holistic 360˚ view of the customer. For me, that’s the benefit of having implemented that from the get-go.
With that, I was able to implement customer success software which boosted the capabilities of the team. If you don't have CS software, you often don’t know where to find the info you need, and you waste time looking for that – that’s another great benefit of CS software.
The third benefit is automated task management. My CS software helps me figure out which customer I should be looking at now and what I should be looking at with them.
The data points to track and the benefits of leveraging them in your CS operations
Let me dive into the data side a little bit more. I think there should always be a distinction between internal and external data. What helps you internally might also help you externally, but you should still differentiate those two.
We use internal data to accurately track customer churn rates against their reasons for leaving. We also look at health scores, which factor in NPS, and I'll touch upon those a little bit later. Those are good internal metrics for us to understand what the customer is doing and what they’re saying to us.
It’s also great to have a visible data point that you can present to your management teams. That way it’s not just “Hey, I think this,” but instead, “Here's what our customers are saying,” and you have qualitative data to back you up.
We talk a lot about health scores in our industry, and that is a somewhat subjective scale but a key item is to understand what the customer is saying, so NPS can play a part. You also want to see if they’re experiencing any issues related to support tickets, and it’s a good idea to include some kind of product metrics so you can see which part of your product customers are using.
If you can get those three kinds of data points, you're getting a sense of what the customer feels about you. As I said, it can be a bit subjective, but what it should give you is an indication of who's not satisfied enough to continue with you.
From there, you can have discussions with the other managers about why customers' health scores are what they are. This will naturally lead to bigger conversations about how you’re serving your customers, and you can scale from there.
The building blocks of customer success systems and data
There’s an old saying, “Garbage in, garbage out.” In other words, if your data is bad, your output is bad. Systems are only as good as the things that you feed into them.
So before you embark on any implementation, the first building block is to take stock of the data you have. Literally write up a document assessing whether you have good data on customers in terms of their spends, their contracts, and their product usage. Check what data you’re missing and where you can access that. You should do a whole data-mapping scenario.
The other thing to note is that systems give you what you want out of them. There are standard fields, typically name and email address, but the other fields are left up to you to define. Another building block then is understanding what is important for you to know at a glance.
I'll give you an example. We run three products, and we've got other options for upselling, so it's important for us to know what products our customers are using and how many licenses they have. We can find this data in our bespoke fields.
Think carefully about your bespoke fields and the kind of information you want to have at a glance. That being said, you're not going to get it right the first time, so allow yourself some flexibility. As you grow with the systems, you learn how to use them.
My final piece of advice is to never assume that someone's going to embrace the new system from the get-go. People have different learning curves in system adoption – it’s the same with your internal teams as it is with your customers – so check in weekly to make sure your team's comfortable using it and that they're embracing it. If they're not, you've got a massive bill on your hands that you're not getting any output from, so change management is key.
How to maximize data to drive further success for customers
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to data, but external data can be really valuable as a conversation starter with your customers. If you’re able to show them what they're doing and what they're missing, that's great.
Let me elaborate on that with an example. We share our customers' usage data in their customer portal so they can see at a glance what end users are doing on the platform. If that's your model, it's really valuable to share what customers are getting out of your product.
This is probably going to be the hardest part because your system might not provide this information seamlessly, but you should be laser-focused on trying to create measurable outcomes for your customers. Whatever activity they're doing in your platform, how is it improving their day-to-day work?
If you can put a monetary value against that and equate it to improved revenue or cost savings then you are in a very good place to start talking about the value you're providing for that company. That obviously leads to a much better conversation around renewal because you've got a tangible measurement that you can demonstrate to your customers.